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2011 Earlybird Preview

2011 Earlybird Invitational Preview by Coach Gustavo Ibarra

North Monterey County High School is proud to present the 17th Annual Earlybird Invitational! We’re set for a 6th year at Toro Park (2012 CCS Championship Site) in Salinas. It will be another thriller with more than 50 teams and over 2,000 athletes expected to participate Saturday, Sept. 10th. Races will be held by grade levels with combined team times being used for overall bragging rights. This may be the most competitive early-season meet in the state of California with many state and section ranked teams and individuals. The 2011 edition will welcome our traditional line-up of powerhouse squads from the north and central part of the state.  The Central Coast Section will put on a show with most top ranked teams here! The Central Section, North Coast Section, and the Northern Section will also send some of their best including several squads ranked in the top 3 in their section and state ranked squads. As cross country is a true team sport, we’ll start by highlighting the top teams followed by the top individuals. We’ll break with tradition and start with the boys since some of the top girl teams are electing to lock horns later on in the season while most top boy teams in the region will clash here.

The BOYS, with 9 out of the 10 fastest squads ever at Toro lined-up here, will steal the show! Our yearly Central Coast Section preview at Earlybird continues as we have 8 out of the top 10 pre-season overall ranked teams here. In the past other sections have shined at Earlybird but CCS is holding its own recently. From 2002-2007 the titles went to Central Section powerhouse Madera. In 2008, Redondo Union rolled into town from the Southern Section and dethroned the Central Valley kings. The last 2 years a re-surging Bellarmine cranked 81:37 and then 81:10 team times at Earlybird for top bragging rights. The Bells return and are the favorites for a three-peat but they are a bit short-handed today with one key scorer ACT testing and another out with an injury. They are currently ranked 1st overall in CCS and 8th in state after a great 6th place showing at state last year in DI. Madera South from the Central Section now has the coach that led Madera to their amazing run and could dethrone the Bells here. They have put in a great summer and should be ready to roll. Ranked 7th in State in DII they will be a force all year. The team that could upset the party may be San Benito from CCS DI. They know Toro well and should run great with a key addition this year. Some DII squads from CCS that will challenge include Los Gatos, Los Altos, and Cupertino. These three should battle all year. Monta Vista has a great leader and could shine also with a fast team time. Keep an eye on Carlmont as well as locals Salinas and Alisal. Other squads shooting for top 10 spots include Leland, Enterprise, Wilcox, St. Ignatius, Lynbrook, Gilroy, and host North Monterey County. Mountain View is a proud program and will try to stay competitive with their still standing course record of 80:13 from 2008.

The senior boys’ race has Kevin Bishop (Monta Vista) coming back for another Earlybird win after a nice 15:51 run last year. Kevin has blossomed and ran a fantastic 8:59 3200 at state dipping under the ultra-elite 9:00 barrier!  If he’s ready to roll he may run away with it and climb high on the all-time Toro list! Earlybird veteran Jack Bordoni (Bellarmine) has been in the top 3 three times and could challenge for the win after a nice 16:01 runner-up last year and should help lead a fierce chase pack. Nathan Esparza (Madera South) was only 6th here last year but he’s our sleeper pick for the upset win. Our mystery runner is Michael McCabe (Willow Glen) as he returns for a 3rd win after huge wins in 9th and 10th grade! He blasted a 16:09 here 2 years back and we’re hoping he’s back in top form. Grant Foster (Los Gatos) and Peter Anthony (Cupertino) both ran a nice 4:19 1600 in track and can use their mile speed if they are close after the famous Toro hills. Juan Navia (Madera South) is very fit this summer. Locals Samuel Hales (King City) and teammates Said Hernandez and Omar Vasquez (San Benito) know Toro well and could surprise. Esteban Valencia (Bellarmine), Austin Bowie (Los Altos), Robert Valencia (Alisal), John Collins (Enterprise), Bryan Tena (Salinas), Thomas Anthony (Cupertino), Edgar Garcia (Watsonville), Jeffrey Stalun (Carlmont), Henry Manning (Los Gatos), with his 1:56 800 speed, and Francisco Salvador (Alisal) will all need good days to snag a hard to come by senior medal!

Bellarmine blew away the competition the last two years and should shine once again! Monta Vista, Salinas, Alisal, and San Benito will show well for the graduating groups.

The junior boys’ race has a returning star. Richard Ho (Leland) is going for win number 3 and he may get it after a dominating win last year at 16:00. He is not afraid to push the pace alone. Charles Deanda (Bellarmine) will give chase once again and watch Jose Herrera (Madera South) who’s not afraid to run up-front and may go for the win. Randy Sosa (Greenfield) blazed a 21:54 4 miler at Toro recently and may shock everyone up the hills! Ciaran Murphy (St. Ignatius) has developed well on the track and is a sleeper if he’s ready to go. John Beutter (Los Altos), Ismael Guzman (Madera South), Ryan Stockton (West Valley), Justin Tucker (Wilcox), Chris Swanson (Fremont), Uriel Cabanas (Madera South), Timothy Layten (Carlmont), and Ricky Esqueda (San Benito) hope for medals.

The Bellarmine juniors have kept pace with their seniors and have also blown the competition away the last 2 years but we think Madera South may close the gap. Los Altos joined the party last year as runners-up and will want to spoil the party this year. Salinas and St. Ignatius, with their army, could show well for the junior teams.

The sophomore boys will provide a great dual once again as Takuto Doshiro (Monta Vista) and Steven Velarde (San Benito) renew their rivalry. Takuto edged Steven last year by 2 seconds and we’ll see what’s in store this year. But, we’re calling a big surprise as footballer RJ Collins (San Benito) makes his cross country and Earlybird debut and could steal the whole race! Sean McCarthy (Leland) was 4th last year and could move up. David Garcia (Madera South) and Ryan Bishop (Monta Vista) are our 2 sleeper picks here coming from great running traditions. Arthur Schulte (Carlmont), Sean Morrison (Los Gatos), Colton Deaver (Enterprise), and Johnny Corral (San Benito) all have medal hopes.

Bellarmine put on a show last year winning the freshmen team race by more than 70 points but are short 2 of their scoring 5 from last year. Look for a closer battle with Monta Vista, Sobrato, Madera South, and Mountain View.

The freshmen boys’ race welcomes our newbies that get the meet off to a great start each year!  We’ll see if anyone can run with the Bellarmine army here.

Now, the GIRLS!  The team title has opened a tad as some top regional squads will face each other down the road and some squads can be greatly enhanced with some newcomers in the 9th grade! On paper Mountain View may take the title here after placing 2nd the last two years.  The top ranked squad in DII has won the last 5 CCS titles in that division and they return a great crew with an amazing leader. They also hold the 2nd fastest team time ever at Toro Park at 96:11 from 2008! Also on paper people have Aptos down a bit in the pre-season rankings. We’ll go against the grain and peg Aptos as a co-favorite here. With amazing leadership and a crop of youngsters the machine rolls on. If they can find a decent 5th scorer they could be dangerous. Carlmont returns to defend their Earlybird title from last year with their nice 99:48 early season run and won’t give that up easily. San Benito also has amazing leadership and could surprise with great Toro abilities. They feature a great one-two punch. A crew of CCS Divison II squads including Los Gatos, Presentation, St. Ignatius, and Gilroy line-up for what will be year-long battles. Some of these squads are traditional powers and fill gaps very well each year. Los Gatos’ team time course record at Toro Park from 2006 stands at a blazing 96:01! Saratoga will also run well while other sections will challenge CCS squads with Madera South, which returns the bulk of a team that qualified to state last year, and Enterprise that has a solid veteran crew. Valley Christian will seek to up-end the bigger schools and keep an eye on Leland, Willow Glen, Santa Cruz, Wilcox, and West Valley.   

The senior girls’ race has a great toss-up battle set-up to settle a great dual! Allison Sturges (Mountain View) is going for her 3rd Earlybird win after titles in 9th and 10th grade although she will now have to dethrone defending champ Morgan Lira (Valley Christian)! Allison has the credentials to run away with it if she’s on. She had a stellar spring blazing a 4:47 mile good for 5th place at state! Morgan was a surprise winner last year and Allison should not be surprised here. If these two are not careful local Anna Welsh (Monterey) could play spoiler after a very fine 10:44 2 mile in track. Another local star that could challenge if healthy is Nina Anderson (Notre Dame-Salinas). She ran a 10:47 2 mile two years back and knows Toro Park very well. Laura Vazquez (Presentation) and Kayla Knapp (Los Gatos) return to try to duplicate their top 5 finish from last year. Amelia Eckhardt (Santa Cruz) broke 19:00 last year and should shine. And, watch teammates Mei-Lin Okino and Sarah Schreck (Carlmont) work together. Lalida Maokhamphiou (Wilcox), Athena Alarcon (Gilroy), Meghan Morse (Aptos), Sarah Wells (Mountain View), Maritza Ruelas (Gilroy), Emily Andrew (Mountain View), Sofia Rios (Madera South), Katie Alioto (Soquel), Abby Blake (Westmont), Sarah Gilbert (Sobrato), and Isabel Garcia (Valley Christian) could also medal here.

The team race should see Mountain View put on a show led by Allison, Sarah, and Emily with Santa Teresa, Los Gatos, Presentation, and St. Ignatius also having solid senior groups.

The junior girls’ race has Nikki Hiltz (Aptos) continuing her meteoric climb to elite levels and Danielle Katz (Los Gatos) the defending champ! Nikki won here in 9th grade but Danielle prevailed by 4 seconds last year. This is our tie-breaker! We’re giving the slight edge to Nikki after her incredible spring season. She blazed a 4:43 mile good for 3rd in state! And that being said, watch rising star Vanessa Estrada (San Benito). She has quietly joined the elite scene and may steal the show. Her summer was fantastic and she’s capable of the win here, especially if she has a lead after the hills. Shaelyn Silverman (Lynbrook) returns after a nice run last year. Others giving chase and hoping to break 20:00 will be Hannah Dorman (West Valley), Corin Soelberg (Carlmont), Alyssa Johnson (Leland), Maya Weigel (Mountain View), Cristal Rivera (Madera South), Madeline Cooper (Presentation), Graciela Belmontes (Alisal), Maura Forbush (San Benito), and Tammey Kramm (Enterprise).

The team race should be a great battle with defending champs Presentation trying to hold off San Benito and St. Ignatius that hope to make it three different winners in as many years.

The sophomore girls’ race has newcomer star Kendall Hacker (St. Ignatius) going for the win after placing 3rd in her first Earlybird. Clare Peabody (Aptos), Alexandra Lathos (Notre Dame-Salinas), and Lauren Schlee (Willow Glen) should provide the greatest challenge for the win. The chase pack will also include former medalists Melissa Reed (Mountain View), Dominique Chan (Leland), Malena Grover (Salinas), Daisy Jimenez (Madera South), Bridget Gottlieb (Monta Vista) and Lindsay Hendershott (Carlmont).

The team plaque here favors Mountain View with Monta Vista and St. Ignatius hoping for an upset.

The freshman girls’ race kicks off the meet and immediately makes decent teams great teams!

Ever since the CCS meet has moved to Toro Park on alternating years the park records have been constantly taking hits! If the weather cooperates we could have some additions here and there. Northern Section superstar Domenic D’Acquisto (Enterprise-2010) came to Toro last year and flirted with what would have been a first ever sub 15:00 clocking at this park with a blazing 15:05 course record that should be safe today. Instead, the top guns here will be shooting to eclipse the 15:38 mark to make the all-time top 25 list! We’re looking at 2-3 guys that could do that this weekend, especially in the senior boys’ race! Tori Tyler (Gunn-2004) blazed a 17:16 course record and threw down a mark that will be hard to challenge for quite some time, if ever. To give you some perspective, #2 on the all-time Toro list is 17:51!  To make the top 25, the girls will have to run 18:33.  We’re also looking at 2-3 girls that could do that here.

As far as team time records are concerned, the boys from Mountain View blazed 80:13 at CCS 3 years ago to shave 32 seconds off the old record! The 16:02 average for their scoring 5 is fairly safe although Bellarmine is inching closer each year! They ran 80:48 last year at CCS Finals and we’ll see how the 2011 crew matches up with that. The girls’ team time record of 96:01 set by Los Gatos 3 years ago seems safe. Averaging 19:12 for their top 5 girls is special and will be hard to match early in the year. To crack the top ten team times ever at Toro boys’ teams will have to break 81:52 and the girls’ teams 98:30.

Good luck to all and we hope you enjoy the meet!       


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